Virus takes heavy toll on hotels in Tsavo parks

The number of tourists have reduced from 1,500 to less than 50, leading to drastic drop of revenue collected.

In Summary

• The hotels have suffered massive cancellation of bookings.

• Most facilities have down-scaled their staff.

High-end hotels at the expansive Tsavo East and West national parks face closure as Covid-19 continues to take a toll on the sector.

Most of them have recorded a dismal performance as the number of visitors continues to dwindle. Some have recorded zero bookings. 

Tsavo West Senior Warden Felix Mwangangi said the number of tourists visiting the park had reduced from 1,500 to less than 50, leading to a drastic drop of the average revenue collected on a day.

"We used to collect at least Sh3 million in a day; unfortunately, many who had booked hotels started cancelling. For the last few days, there has been massive cancellation of bookings, leading the collection to go down to Sh219,000," he said.

Some hotels now ponder over suspending their operations until the virus is contained. Mwangangi said, however, that all hotels have been compelled to adhere to government measures to control the spread of the disease.

On Tuesday, Taita Taveta health officials initiated inspection and sensitisation across all hotels in the parks as part of efforts to control measures. A report from the health officials indicated that most hotels have downscaled their staff.

"Managements have also decided to reduce the number of workers offering services to those already at the hotels in order to minimise chances of staff being infected," the report reads.

For instance, Ashnil Aruba has rationalised from 97 to 20 staffers, Ngutuni Lodge from 37 to 10 and Sagala Lodge from 17 to seven.

Health executive John Mwakima said Taita Taveta is a high-risk county because of its proximity to the expansive parks, the busy Mombasa-Nairobi highway and Tanzania border. It also borders Kwale and Kilifi counties, where cases of infection were confirmed last Sunday.

"We are very vigilant on compliance with the measures we have so far issued. The Ministry of Health also issued a mandatory self-quarantine directive to all entering Kenya," Mwakima emphasised.

Mwakima said all hotels are observing high standards of hygiene and will be updating the county government on various activities happening and daily bookings for close monitoring.

"Moving forward, all hotels shall be feeding us with daily data of visitors with a brief history about them. We are not taking chances," the CEC said.

A spot check at different hotels by officials revealed that most of them have complied with the stringent measures announced by the Ministry of Health.

Nine workers who came into contact with a French tourist who had visited the Voi Wildlife Lodge on March 13, 2020, and later tested positive were released to self-quarantine at their homes.

A junior officer at the hotel told the Star on the phone that the hotel had no visitor.

“The last visitor checked out on March 21. We are not sure whether the hotel shall be temporarily closed,” the staffer said.

The Star could not, however, confirm reports that the hotel had been closed. Efforts to contact the hotel management on Thursday bore no fruit.